Four Quick Tips For Never Leaving A Comic Unfinished

Sorry about even more recycled title art, but I was fairly tired at the time of writing this article.

Sorry about even more recycled title art, but I was fairly tired at the time of writing this article.

Although I finished preparing this year’s Halloween comic the night before I wrote this article, the last few pages were considerably less enjoyable to make than the rest of the comic was. But, despite feeling my enthusiasm for the project waning, I was still able to finish it.

In fact, since I got back into making comics in 2015, I’ve never really left a comic unfinished (eg: even though this mini series has a slightly open ending, it still has some resolution to the story in the final two pages). But, back in 2012-13, I still used to leave comics unfinished occasionally.

So, what did I do to stop myself from leaving comics unfinished? Here are a few very brief tips.

1) Plan first: One of the easiest ways to avoid unfinished comics is to plan out your comic before you make it. Just make a mock-up of your comic with extremely rough scribbled artwork.

If you lose interest or get severe writer’s block whilst making your plan, then either change it, take a break or try planning a different comic. This alone will help you to avoid comic ideas that are doomed to failure.

If you’re worried that planning will take some of the spontaneity out of making comics, then just remember that comic plans aren’t set in stone. If you think of a better panel arrangement, something else to add etc.. when you’re actually making the comic, then by all means do it. Just think of your plan as a backup that can come in handy if you get writer’s block.

2) Length: A shorter finished comic is better than a longer unfinished comic. So, when you’re planning your comic, try to be at least slightly conservative when working out how long it is going to be (not doing this to the right extent was one of the problems with my Halloween comic).

Remember, if your comic is going well, then you can always find ways to expand it beyond your original plan. It’s easier to expand a shorter plan whilst making a comic than it is to cut things whilst making a comic.

So, plan a short comic and – if it goes well – maybe make it longer.

3) Segmentation: This obviously won’t work for all comic projects. But, if you can make things that consist of lots of self-contained segments (such as stand-alone “newspaper comic”-style comics, short stories etc..) then the risk of leaving the project unfinished is a lot lower because, if you find that you are running out of enthusiasm or ideas, then you can just finish your current segment and leave it there.

Since each segment is self-contained, then there will be some kind of conclusion to your project even if you abandon it before making as many segments as you’d originally planned to make.

4) Endings: An abrupt, rushed, random and/or slightly open-ended ending is better than no ending. Any kind of resolution to your comic, no matter how sudden or badly-written is better than no resolution.

So, if you need to end your comic, then end it. Even if you rush the ending, then it’s still better than leaving your comic unfinished.

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Sorry for the short and abrupt article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

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Three Ways To Know When To Finish A Comic Or Story Project

2017 Artwork Knowing when to finish article sketch

Learning when to finish a collection of stories or webcomic updates is a skill which can take a bit of practice. Ideally, you want to finish whilst you still have at least a tiny bit of enthusiasm left for the comic or fiction project.

Whilst I now seem to have something of an instinct about when to finish when it comes to my various webcomic mini series (which typically hover around 8-12 updates per mini series these days), I was woefully inexperienced about it when it comes to writing short stories – as evidenced by the low quality of the final story in the group of short stories I wrote for last Halloween during a return to a storytelling medium I’d abandoned quite a bit in recent years.

So, these tips will mostly be based on what I’ve learnt from making webcomics and from the mistakes I made with my short fiction series last Halloween.

1) Always plan: One mistake I made with my Halloween short stories was doing virtually no proper planning before I started writing them. I’d mostly just think of the opening sentence and possibly the premise a while before I started the story, and that was it. I had the idea that I wanted to write ten stories, but that was about it.

Whilst this allowed me to come up with some neat ideas and endings that really surprised me (like in this story or this story), it was just as likely to mean that my stories turned into a confusing mess (like this one).

If you plan your stories and/or comics out before you make them, then you’ll get a general sense of their size and scope. You’ll be able to tell if your project is long enough for you to finish it before you run out of enthusiasm (always plan your projects to be shorter, but with room for expansion if they go well).

You also won’t have to worry so much about writer’s block in the middle of the project, since you’ll already know what you’re supposed to make. This also helps to prevent the wild variations in quality that can happen in unplanned projects.

2) Know your limits: You’ll have to learn this through bitter experience (eg: failed and/or unfinished projects), but many people have a limit to either how long they can focus on a single project or how many projects they can keep going at any one time.

This is why, for example, all of my webcomic mini series are less than 20 comics long. When I’m making a mini series, I’ll usually go all out and make something like 2-3 comics per day (even if I only post one per day). However, I also know that I usually can’t keep this up for more than a few days (usually less than a week). So, I plan the length of my mini series to take account of this fact.

If you know your limits, you can work within them and you’ll be more likely to actually finish the projects that you start. Likewise, you’ll also be able to alter any project ideas you have so that you can stay within your limits, rather than risk running out of enthusiasm halfway through the project.

3) Always leave wanting more: If you find that you miss one of your creative projects after you’ve finished it, then this is usually a good sign. It means that you’ll want to make something else like it in the future.

If, weeks later, you find yourself wishing you could have added a few extra comic updates or stories to your project, then this is also a good sign.

However, exhaustedly slumping over the finish line like you’ve just run a marathon is probably not going to make you want to make more comics or write more fiction for a while at least.

So, make your projects – especially the ones you’re really excited about – a little bit on the shorter side, and you’ll find that you have enthusiasm and energy left over for future projects.

For example, my Halloween fiction series should probably have only been four stories long instead of ten stories long. I was truly, properly, enthusiastic and inspired for about 5-7 of the ten stories, but the other 3-5 were mostly there because I was determined to write ten stories. If I’d just written four stories (but not necessarily the first four in the collection), then I’d have finished whilst I was still in an enthusiastic and inspired mood.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

When To Abandon An Unfinished Piece Of Art (And When Not To)

2016 Artwork when should you abandon your art article sketch

If you’re an artist, then you’ve probably had times where you’re not sure whether or not to continue making a particular painting or drawing.

Sometimes, this is a pretty clear-cut decision (eg: if your preliminary sketch looks terrible) but other times, it can be a much more decision (eg: if part of your preliminary sketch looks cool, but you’re not sure what to do next.).

So, I thought that I’d share my thoughts about this subject, using an example from the cyberpunk art series that I’ve been talking about quite a bit recently.

Anyway, the night before I wrote this article, I’d started sketching randomly and I’d sketched a slightly futuristic film noir-style character leaning against a chair and holding a traditional-style document file.

This is a recreation of my original unfinished sketch, made by digitally editing the line art for the finished painting (spoiler alert).

This is a recreation of my original unfinished sketch, made by digitally editing the line art for the finished painting (spoiler alert).

As this recreation shows, it had the potential to turn into an interesting painting, but I wasn’t sure what to do next. So, I asked myself a few questions…

Should I make the background look like an old film noir detective’s office? If I were to do this, then it would explain why the character was holding a traditional document folder (in the distant future). However, if I was to use this idea, then I’d got the composition of my sketch totally wrong (since the character should have been closer to the centre of the picture).

Should I add another character? If so, where do I add them? I mean, I hadn’t planned to add another character.

Should I set this picture indoors or outdoors? It’d have to be indoors because of the objects near the character, but I wanted the picture to have a sense of scale.

In the end, I wasn’t sure what to do and – rather than sitting around and not doing anything – I started drawing out the guidelines for another picture (eg: an 18×18 cm square with 1.5 cm “letterboxing” lines at the top and bottom).

Since I was very slightly pressed for time, I realised that I didn’t want to have to come up with a totally new idea for a painting again. So, I returned to my unfinished painting and tried to salvage it.

I took all of the questions that I’d asked myself and tried to find a compromise between each possible “yes” or “no” answer. I decided to set the picture in a library/archive – since it’d explain why the character was holding a traditional document folder in the distant future.

A traditional library would also have the ambience of an old office, but would also have the large expansive scale of an outdoor location (especially after I added the large windows in the background).

I also added another character too, but I kind of hid him behind a pillar slightly (which also gave me the chance to practice drawing people from unusual angles) etc… This is the final result:

"Archive Files" By C. A. Brown

“Archive Files” By C. A. Brown

Because I’d only made a relatively small part of this picture, I had a lot of room to work with when it came to working out how to salvage the rest of the picture. This can be a much more tricky decision to make when you’ve already sketched out large parts of your picture. But, if you’ve done this, then sometimes all it can take is a few small changes to salvage a picture.

In a way, there are no real “rules” when it comes to deciding whether to salvage or abandon an unfinished picture. It depends a lot on how much of a perfectionist you are and it depends on how good or bad your unfinished sketch is.

For example, because I try to make a piece of art every day – I’ve learnt not to be too much of a perfectionist. An unfinished picture has to look seriously terrible before I’ll give up on it.

However, if I’m totally and utterly “stuck” when it comes to deciding what to do next with a picture, then I’ll often move on to another one for purely practical reasons (since I actually want to have a finished painting by the end of the day).

Having a regular art schedule means that I’ll only decide to abandon a picture when it’s strictly necessary. However, this also means that I might end up with a rather crappy picture every now and then. Still, different things work for different people and you might not thrive by working to a regular schedule.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that there’s a middle ground when it comes to deciding whether or not to abandon your art. If you abandon every picture when there’s even a slight chance that it might not turn out well, you’ll never learn how to cover up mistakes, think quite as creatively etc… However, if you never abandon a painting then you might end up getting completely “stuck” when you might be better off starting a new painting.

I don’t know, it’s a complicated subject.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂